Lawyer of the Month: George Kennedy

Lawyer of the Month: George Kennedy

George Kennedy

George Kennedy readily admits that he has never been attracted by the courtroom cut and thrust of criminal law. Recruited by Squire Patton Boggs as a partner in the firm’s global corporate practice when it opened its Dublin office last year, what he really appreciates about corporate law is, he says, that it tends to be a win-win situation.

“Ideally, a good deal is one where everybody walks away happy and that’s what you’re ultimately working towards,” he explains. “There were two areas of law I soon learned just weren’t for me: one was what you might call the more traditional areas of conveyancing – be that residential or commercial – and the other was litigation, that combative courtroom approach.”

Corporate law, he adds, is a field that eminently suits his personality. “I like to work with people to help them solve problems as opposed to getting involved in endless legal rows.

“In the realm of private equity (PE), we’re either acting for people who own their business, or for those who want to invest in that business. What’s great for the owners is that this gives them an opportunity to enjoy the reward of the value in their business that they’ve built to date, then formalise and bring in support meaning there’s someone running alongside them to grow it and hopefully gain further rewards down the road.”

The related opportunities in Ireland are growing for the US-headquartered firm, which is headed in Ireland by Mr Kennedy and Dennis Agnew with a ten-strong team drawn from leading domestic and international firms in Ireland.

His exposure to big overseas firms extends back to Mr Kennedy’s childhood: “My dad was a senior executive with Bausch + Lomb, which is obviously a US multinational and I spent a lot of time in the back of his car travelling around and listening to overseas conference calls, so there’s no doubt that had an influence on me ” he laughs.

Working with colleagues across Squire Patton Boggs’ 40-plus global offices, the team in Ireland has successfully closed several cross-border corporate and private equity transactions in sectors as diverse as financial services, technology, healthcare, retail and food and drink.

The country’s favourable business environment and growing PE sector has opened an increasing variety of work in M&As, fund formation, fundraising and tax optimisation among others and it’s a landscape that has absorbed Mr Kennedy since early in his career.

“I did the business and legal course at University College Dublin and since discovered that so did my partner Dennis,” says the native of Waterford. “I had it in my head at the time to go down any one of the accountancy legal or corporate finance routes and with business and legal training you got accounting experience, a legal module and a view of broader economics and management.”

When he was given a training contract by A&L Goodbody where he subsequently became an M&A advisor, he took his tax exams. “But all along corporate finance was an area that really interested me. When I look now at Squire Patton Boggs’ approach, it comes from that blend of high-end technical expertise, forming deep relationships with clients combined with an extremely entrepreneurial mindset around dealing with businesses and finding opportunities for them to connect with investors. Doing deals is my medicine.”

After his time with A&L Goodbody he moved on to partner roles at Holmes O’Malley Sexton and then Philip Lee – and now specialises in M&A, particularly in connection with private equity, acting for funds, portfolio companies, sellers and management teams.

“What’s fascinating is identifying the opportunities even before the business has found a potential buyer then seeing the deal all the way through to the end, feeding in from the various specialisms and then being there at the end when the client gets their cheque and seeing a positive result. It’s a ‘job well done’ type of feeling.”

Among these positive results have been major transactions that included acting for H&MV Engineering on the sale of a majority stake in the business to Exponent; advising British Growth Fund on the acquisition of its stake in Croom Precision Engineering; acting for Irish private equity firm Renatus on the acquisition of its stake in Tipperary Crystal and acting for BHSL acquiring water industry Glan Agua group.

The firm has quickly established itself as a major player since launching in Ireland and has also recently announced new offices in Amsterdam and Riyadh as well as senior hires across its core global practice areas.

At the beginning of this month, and less than a year after opening in Dublin, Squire Patton Boggs moved into new, larger premises at Ella House in Merrion Square.

Mr Kennedy’s 11 years spent in Limerick led him to marry a woman from the city, where they live with three young children. He travels to Dublin or the UK three or four times a week. The rest of his time is “wondering how we will keep up with kids’ schedules for the next couple of days or at the weekend as they’re full of energy”.

“They’re also showing some of interest in golf now so I’m considering how I can combine playing golf with childminding in the next couple of years – but otherwise we’re lucky in where we live and have some great friends who we spend time with when we can.”

He is, he says, encouraged by the internationalisation of the legal profession in Ireland. “I guess law generally follows business and certainly corporate law does. And international law firms have looked at the ability they have to take their specialisms – the things they do really well – and bring them around the world. And that’s something I very much enjoy.

“People ask me if I would encourage my children to be lawyers and I certainly wouldn’t put them off – it has been a great career for me. The law is a very broad church, and you can pursue what interests you and what you are good at. It’s all available to you in this profession.

“And when international investors talk to us about who they should be talking to when they come to Ireland, whether it’s in the corporate finance advisory community, in tax practices or trying to identify new business opportunities … when you see these dots getting connected all the way from Australia, the US or UK I find that to be immensely rewarding.”

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